The federal regulator plans to address uninsured mortgages granted only on the equity of the property and loans where the lender didn’t apply other ‘prudent underwriting principles’
A federal regulator says it will have to take further action to address mortgage approvals by Canadian banks that still depend too much on the amount of equity in a home, and not enough on whether loans can actually be paid back.
The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions telegraphed the move in an update released Monday on the effectiveness of new underwriting rules it announced last year. Those rules included a new “stress test” for uninsured mortgages, where a borrower makes a down payment of 20 per cent or more.
According to OSFI’s October newsletter, the tweaks were needed after the regulator identified possible trouble spots caused by high levels of household debt and “imbalances” in some real estate markets that could have added more risk for banks.
There have been improvements in the quality of new mortgage loans since the revised B-20 guidelines came into effect this past January, OSFI says, “including higher average credit scores and lower average loan-to-value at mortgage origination.”
But even though OSFI said the new rules “are having the desired effect of helping to keep Canada’s financial system strong and resilient,” the regulator claims more work is needed.
“Although reduced, there continues to be evidence of mortgage approvals that over rely on the equity in the property (at the expense of assessing the borrower’s ability to repay the loan),” the newsletter said. “OSFI will be taking steps to ensure this sort of equity lending ceases.”
OSFI spokeswoman Annik Faucher told the Financial Post in an email that the regulator was referring to uninsured mortgages that were granted based only on the equity of the property — the difference between a property’s value and the amount remaining on a borrower’s mortgage for the property — as well as loans where the lender did not necessarily apply the other “prudent underwriting principles” laid out in the B-20 guideline, such as those aimed at proper documentation of income.
“Sound underwriting helps protect lenders and borrowers and supports financial system resilience,” Faucher said. “Having a larger amount of equity in a property does not mean sound underwriting practices and borrower due diligence do not apply.”
She added that OSFI “has a number of tools in its supervisory toolkit, and when we identify potential issues, we intervene and require financial institutions to implement remedial measures that are commensurate to the risk profile of the institution.”
OSFI said in its October newsletter that there are signs “that fewer mortgages are being approved for highly indebted or over-leveraged individuals.” According to the regulator, the amount of uninsured mortgage originations with loan amounts greater than 4.5 times the borrower’s income has dropped from 20 per cent from April to July of 2017 to 14 per cent for the same period of 2018.
In general, the Canadian housing market has cooled following intervention by regulators and various governments. But OSFI also said it realizes that its tighter underwriting rules might cause some would-be homeowners to use less-than-truthful means to obtain mortgages.
“OSFI recognizes that tightened underwriting standards may increase the incentive for some borrowers to misrepresent their income, while it has also become easier to create authentic-looking false documents,” the newsletter said. “Given that the revised B-20 calls for more consistent application of income verification processes, financial institutions need to be even more vigilant in their efforts to detect and prevent income misrepresentation. This is particularly important for financial institutions that depend on third-party distribution channels.”
On the opening day of sales for the glitzy new condo project in downtown Ajax, the lineup of hopeful buyers spilled out of the sales office onto the sidewalk, wrapped around the building and extended hundreds of metres.
Inside, the office was cramped like a concert venue. Sales agents struggled to find flat surfaces on which to sign contracts, as investors and first-time home buyers clamoured to get in on the ground floor of one of the region’s most anticipated new developments.
The frenzy continued for three straight weekends and Central Park Ajax was sold out in less than a month.
Two-and-a-half years later, ground has yet to be broken, the project is mired in litigation and frustrated purchasers are asking for their deposits back.
Central Park Ajax is not officially dead — a court decision expected sometime this fall could save it — but it is on life support. For now it seems destined to become the latest failed venture by the LeMine Investment Group, a company headed by Tong (Thomas) Liu, a developer who dreams big but can’t seem to get anything built.
Liu’s failure to deliver his ambitious projects has left hundreds of purchasers in the lurch. Meanwhile, the 35-year-old is embroiled in at least 14 lawsuits that allege, among other things, that he misrepresented himself, owes millions to investors and doesn’t pay his bills. Earlier this year a judge found that Liu engaged in self-dealing and acted in bad faith.
Liu admits his lack of experience has led to some mistakes, but he says his intentions were always noble.
“It was never the intention to hurt someone, to hurt investors or to hurt individuals who have worked with us before,” he said in an interview.
Among the sites of Liu’s good intentions is an overgrown, empty lot at 3070 Ellesmere Rd. That’s where he says he still intends to build The Academy, a 26-storey condo tower marketed to investors as providing much-needed rental housing to the growing student population at the nearby University of Toronto Scarborough. Presales for the project sold out in 2014, but construction has yet to begin and the project seems irretrievably stalled, although it is not yet canceled. “We’re stuck,” Liu said.
Leveraging slick marketing in a nearly insatiable real-estate market, Liu convinced investors, municipal officials and eager purchasers to buy into his plans, despite having no track record in development. He used industry accolades and photo-ops with politicians to project credibility, but there was little substance behind his self-promotional sheen. While he tied up valuable land and collected millions of dollars worth of deposits without ever breaking ground, purchasers watched their money lose value. Many are now priced out of the market. Investors, meanwhile, are turning to the courts to recover their losses as land that could have helped ease the region’s housing crunch remains unused.
Liu isn’t the only GTA developer to strand purchasers. Twelve condo projects have been canceled in the Torontoarea since the beginning of last year, according to market research company Urbanation. Two massive developments in Vaughan were recently canceled, leaving more than 2,000 buyers in their wake and leading to calls to increase protections for purchasers. With rising construction costs making it harder for developers to secure financing — or reap their desired profits — more cancellations could be on the way. Liu, who struggled to secure financing for his Ajax project and won’t say if he ran into a similar problem with The Academy, insists his projects are merely delayed.
The Star reviewed court records, documents obtained by Freedom of Information requests and interviewed more than 20 people with connections to Liu and his companies (former employees, partners and consultants, as well as industry executives who worked with LeMine), many of whom spoke only on the condition of anonymity, saying they feared a lawsuit from Liu.
“His intentions were excellent,” said architect Clifford Korman, whom Liu describes as a mentor. “His experience and follow-through were not.”
“I didn’t trust him at all,” said Allan Duffy, the former mayor of Richmond Hill who said he was courted by Liu as a potential advisor. “I dropped him and told everybody I could to do the same.”
“I’ll be happy to get my money out and move on,” said Ayesha Karatella, one of the Central Park Ajax purchasers.
Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government said it is looking into increasing protections for consumers when developers don’t deliver.
In the meantime, Liu said he’s looking forward to his next project.
LeMine’s Richmond Hill office could be a metaphor for the company itself — impressive from a distance but mostly empty. Emblazoned with the company logo, it stands two storeys and stretches the length of half a city block, just west of Highway 404 on 16th Ave. LeMine has only a handful of employees, Liu said, but he rents the entire building — he wouldn’t say for how much — because he said he likes to be able to accommodate partners, investors and contractors. On a recent weekday afternoon the office was quiet. The front door was locked and there was no receptionist.
Outside of real estate, LeMine’s other undelivered promises include a billion-dollar trade deal to send Canadian canola to China and a commitment to invest in a private rail project in Ottawa. Neither materialized. Liu said the canola deal fell apart because the Canadian government did not get a required import certificate from China. The director of the Ottawa rail project said he and his staff declined to work with Liu after reviewing his company.
There is nothing tangible to which Liu can point that his company has successfully delivered. Asked to explain LeMine’s greatest achievement he mentioned the company’s investment philosophy and also a “flash mob” organized in Yonge-Dundas Square in 2014 to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Chinese independence. “We have over 50-million views on the Internet for a single event,” Liu said, adding that the video was shared widely on WeChat, a Chinese social media platform.
In a wood-paneled boardroom, Liu, who grew up in China’s Hunan province — “famous for spicy food and pretty girls” — said the purpose of his company is to “create a platform for Chinese capital.”
Liu first came to Canada when he was 18, completing his final year of high school at a private boarding school in Hamilton. He earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto Scarborough before opening a small immigration consultancy. When one of his Chinese clients asked him about development opportunities in Canada he realized there was an opportunity to connect Chinese investors with Canadian real-estate projects. He started LeMine in 2011.
In January 2014, he paid $1.9 million to buy the land at 3070 Ellesmere Rd., on which he planned to build The Academy. Liu hired Kirkor Architects, Korman’s firm, to design the tower, Devron Developments as project managers and the Milborne Group as sales agents.
Like Central Park Ajax, the project sold out quickly and was heralded for its sleek design. LeMine and its partners won the “People’s Choice Award” in an online vote by the Building Industry and Land Development (BILD) Association. Liu was named the Chinese Business Chamber of Canada’s “Person of the Year in Real Estate Development and International Business.”
Despite the accolades and rapid sales, Liu did not begin construction. He was backed by foreign investors but undercapitalized and he couldn’t secure sufficient financing, according to interviews with three people familiar with the project.
That didn’t stop him from simultaneously taking on another major project. In September 2014, he signed a deal with another developer to take over a multi-phase condo development on land owned, in part, by the Town of Ajax. That project would eventually become Central Park Ajax, envisioned as the first step in a long-term revitalization of the downtown area.
Rob Chaggares, who worked for LeMine as an accountant in 2015 and 2016, said Liu’s “downfall” was taking on too many projects at once. “I thought: What are you doing? Just focus on trying to figure out how to get a shovel in the ground.”
Liu saw himself and his company in grandiose terms, Chaggares said. “I remember one time he said, ‘Let’s not talk millions, let’s talk billions.’ ”
Liu is alleged to have mortgaged The Academy property to finance the Ajax development, according to a statement of claim filed by an investor named Xiangdon Zhao, who said he invested $2 million in The Academy and has not been paid promised dividends. He accused Liu of making “negligent misrepresentations” and leveraging the undeveloped property to fund other projects. Zhao declined to comment through his lawyer.
Liu, in his statement of defence, denied the allegations made by Zhao, whom he said is not currently entitled to any dividends. Liu also insisted The Academy project is still alive and that Zhao’s funds were used exclusively for its development.
Another group of investors in The Academy sued Liu saying he breached their contracts, cannot account for their money and won’t return their deposits. A default judgement, issued in May after Liu did not file a statement of defence, awarded the investors $541,275.
Before these troubles with The Academy emerged, Liu was building his relationship with the Town of Ajax.
In the fall of 2015, he arranged a two-week trip to China for Mayor Steve Parish and three other Ajax officials. There were business meetings, but also sightseeing trips to The Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and other tourist spots. (The town covered the airfare and cost of visas for the mayor and staff, while LeMine covered all other expenses on the trip.)
LeMine’s design for the project — a 10-storey building comprised of two, six-storey residential condo towers on top of a four-storey podium — was fully approved by December 2015. As part of the agreement, LeMine was required to begin construction by July 15, 2017.
The Town of Ajax enthusiastically endorsed the project. They publicized it on their website, advertised it on municipal property and even had government officials appear in LeMine’s promotional videos.
Purchasers who spoke to the Star said the town’s official stamp of approval gave them confidence the project was secure. “The town so openly supporting it the way they did led us to believe that this was pretty much a surefire thing,” said Christopher Chong-St. Amant, who is among the purchasers awaiting the outcome of the court case before deciding whether to ask for their deposit back.
Before sales launched, 3,500 people had already registered on LeMine’s website, according to Liu.
Carl Hamilton, another Ajax purchaser, remembers the rush to buy when sales opened. “There wasn’t really time to second guess because there were droves of people behind you that were ready to sign.” Chong-St. Amant said the sales centre was “like a madhouse” on the opening weekend.
As with The Academy, Central Park Ajax was a marketing triumph and pre-construction sales of the 410-unit project sold out in a matter of weeks.
Problems arose almost immediately. Just weeks after selling out, Liu met with the mayor and said he wanted an additional five storeys — a 50-per-cent height increase.
“I indicated that this would not have my support,” Parish wrote in an internal email describing the conversation to his staff. Parish wrote that he told Liu adding the extra storeys after selling the presales would be “unfair to existing purchasers,” “contrary to our longstanding agreement” and “could cause political difficulties.” Liu “did not want to hear this,” Parish wrote. “(He) seems to think he can have whatever he wants.”
Korman, the designer on both projects, said he believes Liu once again “undersold the project versus the construction costs. … He got caught the same way in Ajax as he did on The Academy — without enough finances to carry the project through.” Liu said this is not true.
Liens started to appear on the property from unpaid tradespeople. Town officials grew increasingly concerned. In September 2016, lawyers for the town wrote LeMine a stern letter, saying they were spending too much time responding to “various lien claimants and their lawyers.”
In November, fewer than nine months before the deadline to begin construction, LeMine sought to amend the approved site plan by increasing the project from 10 to 12 storeys and from two to three levels of underground parking. (The town says in court filings they did not consider the material LeMine submitted to be a complete application because it was missing key elements.)
Meanwhile, LeMine’s sales centre was becoming a symbol for the project itself. Rain and wind had badly damaged the facade, while the company’s signage was torn and peeling. The place looked abandoned. If LeMine couldn’t spend “a couple grand” — as one town staffer put it — to clean up the sales centre, how would it build a multi-million-dollar condo?
Ajax’s chief administrative officer, Rob Ford, who has since retired, wrote Liu twice in the first four months of 2017 to request “urgent” meetings. Ford listed a litany of issues: LeMine still hadn’t fixed the sales centre; they were ignoring emails; liens had not been cleared and new ones were being added; and LeMine still hadn’t secured financing to begin construction.
Real estate agents who brokered sales began contacting the Town on behalf of their clients with concerns about the viability of the project. In one email a Royal Lepage agent whose name is redacted lists a number of questions for the Town, including: “Does the Town of Ajax regret doing business with LeMine Investment Group as much as my clients and I?”
Some skittish purchasers started asking for their deposits back.
Problems persisted throughout the summer of 2017 and when the July 15 deadline to start construction came and went without any progress, Ajax sent LeMine formal notice that it intended to invoke its right to repurchase the land. This triggered a 90-day grace period. There was nothing stopping Liu from beginning construction at this point, the Town’s lawyers would later argue in court. “LeMine had only to file for its building permit, but it did not do so.”
Even after the grace period elapsed, Ajax gave LeMine a new deadline of Dec. 8 to pay its creditors, bring its mortgages into good standing and secure construction financing. That deadline also came and went. On Jan. 11, 2018, the town publicly announced its plans to repurchase the land and formally end its partnership with LeMine.
Six days later, a frustrated Liu stormed into Ajax’s town hall and demanded to meet with Ford. Liu had been asked to leave the offices three months earlier because he had made staff “uncomfortable,” according to internal town emails. On this occasion he was escorted out, the emails said.
Speaking recently, Liu said there was “miscommunication” with town officials, but he wouldn’t elaborate. He said he did have concerns about the “economic feasibility” of the Ajax project last year, but it is “ready to go now” if the town was willing to work with him.
In March, Liu sued Ajax for $300 million for the “unlawful termination of a land development contract.” Liu said the town did not have the right to repurchase the property because they had not yet made a decision on his revised site plan application. The town said his application was incomplete. The trial was held this summer and a decision is expected before the end of the year.
“The town is blaming the developer, LeMine is blaming the town; I don’t really know where the blame lies,” said Karatella, one of the purchasers. “But I don’t care whose fault it is, someone should be accountable for the money I could have made on my investment.”
In an emailed statement to the Star, Parish, Ajax’s longtime mayor, said that when LeMine approached the Town “it presented a solid proposal which detailed a vision for the project, work being done in other jurisdictions, resources and a healthy financial picture.”
While Liu, the town and purchasers who haven’t yet pulled their deposits await the court’s decision, Liu is dealing with a slew of other legal problems.
Among the lawsuits filed against Liu are former consultants and contractors claiming he owes them money; investors who said he can’t account for their funds and won’t pay them back; and allegations that Liu misused investors’ money.
In one case, decided earlier this year, investor Valbonne-Canada won a judgment against Liu for more than $2.1 million. The case related to a proposed townhouse development in Thornhill, which was never built or pre-sold to the public. Liu later sold the undeveloped properties, but not before he “pilfered” the project funds for his own benefit, paid his own company $761,000 in dubious “project management fees” and “drained” the bank account that once held the investors’ money, according to Valbonne-Canada’s allegations.
In a scathing decision, Justice Thomas J. McEwen ruled against Liu and found him personally liable, saying he acted in bad faith, engaged in self-dealing, and showed “an utter disregard for the legal rights of the Applicants.”
The judgment included a “notice of garnishment” against Liu, but Liu said it is not being enforced and he is working on a settlement. Valbonne-Canada’s lawyer declined to comment.
In another case in which both Liu and his spouse, Yixuan Wang, are defendants, Toronto Capital Corp. and other creditors are seeking to take possession of Liu’s Willowdale home, which was cross-collateralized with the Ajax property, meaning a default on either mortgage would count against the other.
Liu and his wife allegedly defaulted on the Ajax mortgage in April 2017 and owe more than $2 million, according to court documents.
A default judgment was issued in February, but Liu said he didn’t lose his house and the lender was eventually paid. He said he didn’t default on the Ajax mortgage. He did not explain why the judgement said he did. “I consider this as one of the hard lessons we had to learn when dealing with Jewish people … Jewish lenders.” Asked to explain the comment, Liu said, “On the deals, they’re difficult. … Chinese (people) tend to believe people are good. Sometimes when we have that perspective we corner ourselves and they take advantage of our willingness.”
Liu declined to explain what happened or who specifically he was speaking about. Frank Mondelli, the principal broker of Toronto Capital Corp., declined to comment.
Another case alleged Liu and his staff told Chinese investor Miaogen Zhou that he could obtain permanent residency in Canada if he invested in The Academy. Zhou alleged he paid Liu $496,703, which he believed would be held in trust. Despite “repeated requests,” Zhou claimed Liu has “failed to provide a single piece of information … showing what happened to Zhou’s funds.” Liu has not filed a statement of defence, but he denied offering Zhou permanent residency in exchange for an investment.
Liu declined to discuss the lawsuits in detail but said he has never used investors’ money for other projects without their permission. He suggested litigation is simply the cost of doing business in the development industry. “I believe if you look at any of the big developers in Toronto you would find the same or even much more trouble than what we have now.”
Speaking generally, Liu admitted to making mistakes, attributing it in part to being a first-generation Canadian running a complex business. “Sometimes we learn in a hard way,” he said.
Others said Liu got in over his head. “His reach far exceeded his grasp,” said a former consultant to LeMine with extensive experience in the development industry. “But it wasn’t a minor gap — it was a big gap.”
In an overheated housing market, it’s often the purchaser who is most vulnerable when developers like Liu falter, said James McKellar, professor of real estate and infrastructure at York University’s Schulich School of Business. In the “race to sell out,” McKellar said, Liu probably set his prices too low and didn’t account for realistic construction costs.
But the cost to purchasers isn’t just financial, McKellar added. “If you buy something with the anticipation you’re going to get it in four years, you’re planning your family, etcetera. The interest rate is a very small part of it. It really sets you back.”
For Karatella, 29, the two-bedroom condo unit she purchased in Central Park Ajax was going to be her first home. She hasn’t asked for her deposit back yet, but if the project doesn’t go ahead she isn’t sure what she’s going to do. “To get something comparable to what I purchased is $100,000 more,” she said. “It’s totally ridiculous that my money is just sitting there and nobody’s accountable for it.”
McKellar said there should be penalties for developers who can’t deliver. “People are paying the price for this exuberant industry,” he said. “This is why governments have to step in.”
NDP housing critic Suze Morrison, who represents the provincial riding of Toronto-Centre, agreed there should be more protections for condo purchasers, but she didn’t think the solution was penalizing developers. Morrison said the NDP is looking into possible reforms to the Tarion Warranty Corporation, but did not provide specific details.
Progressive Conservative MPP Todd Smith, the minister of government and consumer services, said in an emailed statement that his government is looking into the issue “to determine how best to strengthen the protection of consumers.” Smith did not provide specifics, except to say that the government will work with “industry, stakeholders and consumers as we determine next steps.”
Liu’s court troubles persist.
In June, a numbered company which is Liu’s current partner in The Academy — his original partner cut all ties with the project in 2016 — got a court order to temporarily freeze the property after alleging Liu kept trying to borrow against it without the company’s consent, according to the judgement. Liu said the property at 3070 Ellesmere was not frozen. He did not explain why there are documents showing otherwise. Property records show there are three mortgages on the property totalling $13 million. Liu said the actual amount owing on the property is less than that.There is also a $3.95 million construction lien.
Sitting in his boardroom, Liu agreed his company is in trouble.
“Yes, I am,” he said. “(But) you say trouble, I say it’s difficult matters that we need to handle. We’re in business. Every business has difficulties and we need to manage them.”
Some of Liu’s former partners said his reputation within the industry is in tatters, but Korman said he would be willing to work with Liu again — as long as he’s paid upfront. “I’m not stupid.”
Liu said there are still lots of good things happening with his company. New investors are coming in every month, he said, and he’s working on launching a new project. He declined to discuss it.
Source: Toronto Star – By BRENDAN KENNEDY Investigative Reporter Thu., Sept. 27, 2018
Economic class will make up about 60% of newcomers
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said that by 2036 100 per cent of Canada’s population growth will be as a result of immigration, it stands at about 75 per cent today. (CBC)
Canada will welcome nearly one million immigrants over the next three years, according to the multi-year strategy tabled by the Liberal government today in what it calls “the most ambitious immigration levels in recent history.”
The number of economic migrants, family reunifications and refugees will climb to 310,000 in 2018, up from 300,000 this year. That number will rise to 330,000 in 2019 then 340,000 in 2020.
The targets for economic migrants, refugees and family members was tabled in the House of Commons Wednesday afternoon.
Hussen said the new targets will bring Canada’s immigration to nearly one per cent of the population by 2020, which will help offset an aging demographic. He called it a historic and responsible plan and “the most ambitious” in recent history.
“Our government believes that newcomers play a vital role in our society,” Hussen said. “Five million Canadians are set to retire by 2035 and we have fewer people working to support seniors and retirees.”
In 1971 there were 6.6 people of working age for each senior, Hussen said, but by 2012 that ratio had gone to 4.2 to 1 and projections show it will be at 2 to 1 by 2036, when almost 100 per cent of population growth will be a result of immigration; it stands at about 75 per cent today.
Immigration Minister on the government’s new multi-year plan
Immigration Minister on the government’s new multi-year plan6:58
Hussen said immigration drives innovation and strengthens the economy, rejecting some claims that newcomers drain Canada’s resources and become a burden on society.
He said the government is also working to reduce backlogs and speed up the processing of applications in order to reunite families and speed up citizenship applications.
The federal government’s own Advisory Council on Economic Growth had recommended upping levels to reach 450,000 newcomers annually by 2021. Hussen said the government is taking a more gradual approach to ensure successful integration.
“At arriving at these numbers we listened very carefully to all stakeholders who told us they want to see an increase but they also want to make sure that each and every newcomer that we bring to Canada — bringing a newcomer to Canada is half of the job. We have to make sure that people are able to be given the tools that they need to succeed once they get here,” he said.
Focus on integration: Rempel
Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel was critical of the plan, suggesting the government needs to do a better job of integrating newcomers.
“It is not enough for this government to table the number of people that they are bringing to this country. Frankly the Liberals need to stop using numbers of refugees, amount of money spent, feel-good tweets and photo ops for metrics of success in Canada’s immigration system.”
Luiz Capitulino, 11, of Brazil joins others take the oath as they become official Canadians during a citizenship ceremony at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Sept. 25, 2017. The federal government will welcome 310,000 newcomers to Canada in 2018. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
She said the Liberals need to bring Canada’s immigration system “back to order” by closing the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement that has seen migrants cross into Canada at unofficial border crossings only to claim refugee status.
She also said the immigration system should focus on helping immigrants integrate through language efficiency and through mental health support plans for people who are victims of trauma.
Dory Jade, the CEO of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, welcomed the news although he suggested the numbers should be higher.
“Canada will greatly prosper and grow once the 350,000 threshold has been crossed,” he said. “Nevertheless, we are witnessing a very positive trend.”
The Canadian Council of Refugees also welcomed the news, but wanted more, saying the share for refugees was only increased slightly from 13 per cent this year to 14 per cent in each of the next three years.
Calls for longer-range forecast
In past, there has been a one-year figure for how many immigrants will be permitted into the country, but provinces and stakeholders have called for longer-range forecasts.
Hussen on immigrant integration funding
Hussen on immigrant integration funding0:17
A statement from Ontario’s Immigration Minister Laura Albanese, before the announcement, said the province supports the introduction of multi-year levels plans “to provide more predictability to the immigration system and inform program planning.”
“Significant variation in year-to-year immigration levels can dramatically impact the requirement for provincial year-to-year resources. A longer term outlook would help in planning for appropriate service levels and use of resources.”
The statement said Ontario supports growth in immigration levels, particularly in economic immigration categories to support the growing economy.
Diversity drives innovation
During the government’s consultation period, the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance presented “Vision 2020,” what it called a “bold” three-year plan to address growing demographic shifts underway in the country, calling for increased numbers in the economic, family and refugee categories.
It recommended a target of 350,000 people in 2018, which climbs to 400,000 in 2019 and 450,000 by 2020.
Chris Friesen, the organization’s director of settlement services, said it’s time for a white paper or royal commission on immigration to develop a comprehensive approach to future immigration.
“Nothing is going to impact this country [more] besides increased automation and technology than immigration will and this impact will grow in response to [the] declining birth rate, aging population and accelerated retirements,” he told CBC News.
Source; CBC.ca – Kathleen Harris, Chris Hall, Peter Zimonjic, CBC News
The Ontario government has announced what it calls a comprehensive housing package aimed at cooling a red-hot real estate market on Thursday. Here are the 16 proposed measures:
A 15-per-cent non-resident speculation tax to be imposed on buyers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area who are not citizens, permanent residents or Canadian corporations.
Expanded rent control that will apply to all private rental units in Ontario, including those built after 1991, which are currently excluded.
Updates to the Residential Tenancies Act to include a standard lease agreement, tighter provisions for “landlord’s own use” evictions, and technical changes to the Landlord-Tenant Board meant to make the process fairer, as well as other changes.
A program to leverage the value of surplus provincial land assets across the province to develop a mix of market-price housing and affordable housing.
Legislation that would allow Toronto and possibly other municipalities to introduce a vacant homes property tax in an effort to encourage property owners to sell unoccupied units or rent them out.
A plan to ensure property tax for new apartment buildings is charged at a similar rate as other residential properties.
A five-year, $125-million program aimed at encouraging the construction of new rental apartment buildings by rebating a portion of development charges.
More flexibility for municipalities when it comes to using property tax tools to encourage development.
The creation of a new Housing Supply Team with dedicated provincial employees to identify barriers to specific housing development projects and work with developers and municipalities to find solutions.
An effort to understand and tackle practices that may be contributing to tax avoidance and excessive speculation in the housing market.
A review of the rules real estate agents are required to follow to ensure that consumers are fairly represented in real estate transactions.
The launch of a housing advisory group which will meet quarterly to provide the government with ongoing advice about the state of the housing market and discuss the impact of the measures and any additional steps that are needed
Education for consumers on their rights, particularly on the issue of one real estate professional representing more than one party in a real estate transaction.
A partnership with the Canada Revenue Agency to explore more comprehensive reporting requirements so that correct federal and provincial taxes, including income and sales taxes, are paid on purchases and sales of real estate in Ontario.
Set timelines for elevator repairs to be established in consultation with the sector and the Technical Standards & Safety Authority.
Provisions that would require municipalities to consider the appropriate range of unit sizes in higher density residential buildings to accommodate a diverse range of household sizes and incomes, among other things.
There are still opportunities to take advantage of U.S. real estate, according to one veteran who has penned a guide for Canadians interested in purchasing property down south.
“The number one mistake is they don’t own it the way they need to own it based on their circumstances. For example, they may own it as a Canadian corporation; well, that’s perfectly legitimate in Canada but owning real estate in that way in the U.S. causes double taxation,” Dale Walters, author of Buying Real Estate in the US: The Concise Guide for Canadians, told Canadian Real Estate Wealth. “If you get a U.S. advisor, they may recommend they use an LLC. Hopefully the word is out now that in Canada that would cause double taxation.”
Walters’ book focuses a great deal on tax implications for Canadians who purchase real estate down south as well as information on the best way to own a property.
“The book is informational; it’s a tax book primarily. How do you own real estate in the U.S., what’s the proper way of owning it, the options, what are the tax consequences of the various ways of owning it because each way is a different tax outcome,” he said. “How do you deal with rental income and what are the tax consequences of that. You’ve got potential liability issues, how to protect yourself, non-resident estate tax potential – all of those things I cover.”
It can be daunting to purchase real estate overseas, but Walters argues there are still opportunities for all different kinds of investors; including deals for those looking to own vacation properties, become full-time landlords, and those interested in commercial properties.
There are also various markets that provide different risk profiles.
Walters believes there are two major reasons Canadians are still interested in U.S. real estate: Diversification and the availability of bargains.
“The usual markets that have market appreciation potential which would be, generally speaking, the sun belt. Southern California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida, primarily,” Walters said. “If you’re looking at some higher-risk, possibly higher opportunity, you still have places like Detroit and places like that.”
OTTAWA — Canada’s finance minister believes the housing market remains hot, but healthy. It just needs a little more regulatory care to keep it that way and not harm the economy in the process.
For now, Bill Morneau’s prescription calls for some gentle adjusting of existing rules — like closing a tax loophole on non-resident real estate investors — along with new measures, such as a mortgage-rate “stress test” to ensure hopeful buyers can afford to get into the market in the first place and meet their payments when lending levels begin to rise.
“Overall, these measures should reduce the risk of a knock-on to the Canadian economy from a possible correction in Vancouver and Toronto,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, following the minister’s announcement of the changes on Monday.
“There’s enough here (in the new rules) to slow the markets — especially foreign demand in those markets,” Guatieri said. “But what these measures will also do is reduce the risk of a correction down the road should prices in those two cities continue to rise at double-digit rates.”
Both the federal government and the Bank of Canada have been attempting to cool the housing market in the post-recession environment of low-for-longer interest rates. Ottawa has attempted to rein in the market through progressively tighter regulations on the length and levels of mortgages, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto where prices of homes have been on a steady upward trajectory — even as interest rates have remained at near-historic lows.
Stephen Poloz, the central bank governor, has been at pains to remind Canadians that rates will eventually begin to go up and borrowers need to stay within their ability to manage mortgages at higher rates.
Changes announced Monday, which come into effect Oct. 17, will “certainly add some prudence” to the housing markets … by beefing up the so-called mortgage stress qualifications,” Guatieri said.
“It clearly will price-out buyers in some high-priced regions in Canada — obviously Toronto and Vancouver. So, that will go some ways, I believe, to cooling the markets in those two regions.”
Even before the measures were announced those two markets were showing signs of slowing down.
Phil Soper, chief executive at Royal LePage, said “we are already starting to see the early stages of a cyclical slowing of the market in both cities — albeit more pronounced in Vancouver.”
“For the rest of the country, I believe we’re actually in a natural expansionary phase and will probably see very little change or slowing … anywhere but in our two biggest cities,” he said.
The government in Ottawa — and in British Columbia, which has also brought in tougher guidelines on the residential market — need to be “very, very careful when they implement new policy (as it) could damage what is now the economic driver of the Canadian economy.”
“(But) I believe they have reached a balance,” Soper added. “They’re sending the right messages.”
Meanwhile, the body representing the country’s financial sector said it agreed with Ottawa’s objective of “ensuring Canada’s housing markets remain strong, stable and resilient, and that there are no quick fixes.”
“We are currently reviewing the changes to the mortgage and housing markets announced by the federal government … and discussing them with our members to determine the potential impact of these measures,” the Canadian Bankers Association said in an email to the Financial Post.
“Banks in Canada are prudent lenders that manage risk carefully,” the CBA said, adding that financial institutions “already do extensive stress testing on their mortgage portfolios to ensure that their clients have the ability to repay their loans even if interest rates increase.”
I’m considering selling my property in the U.S. I know I’ll need to pay capital gains on the appreciated value but do I claim the gains in U.S. or Canadian currency?
—Paul and Barb, Fort McMurray, Alta.
Timing is everything, in both comedy and taxes. According to Philippe Brideau, spokesperson for the CRA, both the cost of the property to buy and the proceeds of the sale must be converted into Canadian dollars using the exchange rate at the time of each transaction. You then report the capital gain, or loss, on your tax return based on “the difference between those two Canadian dollar amounts.” But the CRA isn’t the only tax collector to consider. The U.S. also cares about that property sale, explains Kim Moody of Calgary-based Moodys Gartner Tax Law. “A Canadian needs to first report a gain or loss in the U.S. by filing a U.S. tax return—form 1040NR—and paying any applicable U.S. taxes.” Expect to pay a withholding tax to the Internal Revenue Service, which you claim as a foreign tax credit on your Canadian tax return. Now, if this is a place in the sunny south, I hope you get to enjoy one last season down there.
Source: MoneySense.ca – Bruce Sellery February 2016